Stigmatizing words of opponents of reform carry a heavy weight
We applaud your Aug. 29 editorial “If police reform is ever going to come, it has to be right here, right now.” As emergency physicians with more than 40 years’ experience, we believe that violent trauma is preventable. Police reform is an important part of social and economic justice and would go a long way to heal wounds.
Unfortunately, the words of those who oppose reform carry a heavy weight. For example, a recent press release by the executive director of the Massachusetts Police Association stated, “We cannot support a measure which takes handcuffs off drug dealers and gang bangers and puts them on police.” Words like this stereotype, stigmatize, and traumatize communities of color, justify brutality, and vilify those who seek to limit the use of lethal force and qualified immunity.
Two years ago, an executive board member of the Massachusetts Police Association’s Sentinel newsletter wrote, “I am sick and tired of the social justice warriors telling us how to do our jobs. It’s time we forget about ‘restraint’ [and] ‘de-escalation’ . . . that is getting our officers killed. . . . Let’s meet violence with violence and get the job done.”
Words matter, especially words like these that promote fear and hate and preserve the status quo. We absolutely need police reform “right here, and right now.”
Dr. Edward Bernstein
Dr. Peter Moyer
Bernstein is a professor emeritus and Moyer a professor and chair emeritus of emergency medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine. Moyer is also a retired medical director for Boston Police, Fire, and EMS.
We can lead in police reform as we have in education, health care, and marriage equality
Massachusetts should seize the opportunity to rethink our policing models and not stop at the currently proposed limited reforms of qualified immunity, misconduct review boards, and use-of-force tactics (“If police reform is ever going to come, it has to be right here, right now”).
In the same way that Massachusetts’ education funding reform has led to the nation’s best-ranked schools, our health care reform became the model for the Affordable Care Act, and our leadership on gay marriage set the stage for greater equality, we can also set a new bar for policing.
Our police officers should be “good police,” protecting the public and investigating crimes. Too much time and money is spent on non-policing activities such as monitoring construction sites, performing social work, and other tasks that could be handled by professionals trained specifically to manage those efforts.
We need bold leadership from our academic institutions, our government, and the police themselves to rethink our policing models and set standards that other states can emulate.